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Secretaries of state: what they do and why the election of election officials is important

Georgia expected to release results of hand recount of presidential election today
Posted at 9:35 AM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 10:35:11-04

In 38 states, the secretary of state is elected by voters to perform various tasks on behalf of the state government.

While their duties vary based on the state, in most states, secretaries of state serve as the administrator of elections. According to the National Association of Secretaries of State, the secretary of state acts as the chief election official in 40 states. In several of these states, the secretary of state is appointed to the job.

“Secretaries of state actively promote resources available to assist voters, including but not limited to: voter registration information, state voting procedures and requirements, state guidelines for reporting and responding to voting issues and irregularities, as well as sharing information on the reporting and certification of election results,” the National Association of Secretaries of State said.

During the 2020 election, the role of secretary of state played a larger role. As supporters of President Donald Trump clashed with police at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office was evacuated as there were reports of armed militia members outside of Brad Raffensperger’s office

Raffensperger faced pressure from Trump in a phone call shortly after the 2020 election in hopes of swaying the election.

Raffensperger, a Republican, faces reelection in Georgia. In total, there are nearly two dozen states electing secretaries of state in next week’s midterm election.

The stakes are arguably high.

Several candidates for secretary of state throughout the U.S. said they would not have certified the results of the 2020 presidential election due to claims of election fraud. Claims of any widespread election fraud, however, were largely not substantiated in court.

One Republican who has perpetuated claims of election fraud is Mark Finchem, who is seeking office in Arizona. One of Finchem’s claims is that officials in the Phoenix area accepted 18,000 mail-in ballots after Election Day.

But the Associated Press examined these claims and found that the ballots were received by election officials by election day, but was a record of when officials transferred the envelopes to a vendor to be scanned. According to the AP, election officials are five days after the election to examine the signatures and confirm their authenticity.

Democrats running for secretary of state claim that Republican candidates will “undermine voting rights.”

“If changing the rules doesn’t work, they’re willing to toss out the election in order to pick and choose winners,” said Kim Rogers, executive director of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State. “We have seen a coordinated attack on our democracy and these extreme candidates are part of the problem. Luckily, voters have a choice. Democracy is a decision. And we’re choosing to save it.”

Republicans have differed in their response following the 2020 election. Although some have promoted claims of a stolen election, some like Raffensperger have defended the process.